News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 4, 2013

Virginia Unverzagt


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TERRE HAUTE — Dr. Virginia Unverzagt, Professor Emeritus at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods College in Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Ind., passed peacefully into communion with Our Lord on Thursday, June 27, 2013, at Providence Health Care. She was 66 years old.

Virginia Louise Tyler was born in Chicago, on Oct. 14, 1946, to Hannah Elizabeth Yates Tyler and Charles William Tyler. There were five siblings in the family: Ann Marie b. 1944, Virginia Louise b. 1946, Joseph William b. 1948, Carol Ann b. 1951, and James Alfred b. 1960. Her father was a plumbing contractor and her mother was an executive secretary. Raised in Chicago in a creative, fun, dynamic family, Virginia attended St. Andrew's Catholic School. When the family moved to Ingleside, Ill., she attended Holy Child High School, graduating in 1964. One year later, she entered the convent as a Sister of Providence at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. In 1970, “Sr. Roch” received a bachelor of arts in math and psychology.

After graduation, she left the convent and in 1971 married Richard Vander Heide of Grand Rapids, Mich. They had a son, Case Charles, in 1976. A few years later, newly single again, she married Harry Unverzagt of Ingleside. Their daughter Joy Lynn was born in 1980. Harry and Virginia had a 34-year marriage. They lived in Fox Lake, Ill., and moved to Terre Haute, in 2000.  

Education was one of Virginia's core values. While raising a family, teaching full time, and running Harry's trucking company, she earned a master’s degree at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College in Pastoral Theology in 1988 and then in 1994 became a Doctor of Ministry in Applied Ministries and Religious Education at the Graduate Theological Foundation in Donaldson, Ind. She also studied at Oxford, England.

Dr. Unverzagt's influence cannot be measured. She spent her entire career enlightening and inspiring others. Her students number in the thousands. For over four decades, she taught school in Missouri, Michigan, Texas, Illinois and Indiana. Most of her high school teaching career was at Marian Central Catholic High School in Woodstock, Ill. During those years, she also directed the religious education program at St. Bede School in Ingleside. The MAPT Pastoral Theology program she directed at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College has global outreach. In addition, Dr. Unverzagt conducted countless workshops and seminars and was a frequent contributor to various religious publications. She was designated an “Excellent and Caring Teacher” by Joseph Cardinal Bernardin, Archbishop of Chicago, received the Elizabeth Ann Seton Service Award, and met Mother Teresa.

Some of Virginia’s many attributes include creativity, intelligence, insightfulness, and a welcoming nature. She was practical, skillful, clever, witty, funny, thoughtful, fun to be with, sharp, generous, inclusive and genuine. She loved going to the movies, cooking, gardening, puzzles and games, painting, entertaining and traveling with her family.

She met the challenges of life courageously, with strength and dignity, and without missing a beat. Despite difficult circumstances, she had a loving spouse, raised a beautiful, intelligent son, Case, who graduated (Summa Cum Laude) from Marquette, and the challenges presented by their sweetheart, special-needs daughter, Joy, pushed her to find more innovative solutions to life. Part of Virginia’s legacy will be the spiritual and practical knowledge distilled from these challenges that she compiled into a book titled “Finding Joy: Autism A-Z”. She was a strong advocate for those with special needs and was involved in the autism support community as a member of the ARC Board of Directors. She attended St. Margaret Mary Church.

Through it all, Virginia never lost her embrace for Saint Mother Theodore Guerin, the Community of the Sisters of Providence and the values they represent. She spent her life in service to her family and the well being of others. In 2007, she became a Providence Associate, making a deeper, more formal commitment to the Providence vision of love, mercy and justice.

It mattered to her that women live their lives to their full potential. She was a strong role model, encouraging and supporting the lives of the women around her. She inspired everyone she encountered by how brightly she lived her life and, in her last days, with such grace, how she faced ovarian cancer.

“Ginia” was dearly loved and essential to the lives of her family, parents, siblings and friends. No words can express how deeply she will be missed.

She is survived by her husband, Harry Unverzagt, of Terre Haute; her daughter, Joy Lynn Unverzagt, also of Terre Haute; and her son, Case Charles Unverzagt, daughter-in-law Jennifer and granddaughter Sylvia of Minneapolis. Virginia also is survived by her father, Charles William Tyler, age 94, of Clinton, Ind.; her brother, Joseph William Tyler and sister-in-law Joan Tyler of Saranac Lake, N.Y.; her sister, Carol Ann Tyler and brother-in-law Justin Green of Cincinnati; and her brother, James Alfred Tyler and sister-in-law Kareen Tyler of Saranac Lake. Her nieces are Laurel Ann Tyler, Hannah Elizabeth Tyler, Joanna Tyler, Julia Green, Ava Tyler, and Zoe Tyler.

She was preceded in death by her mother, Hannah Elizabeth Yates Tyler (2012); and her sister, Ann Marie Tyler (1947).

Services will be held on Saturday, July 13, 2013, at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Sisters of Providence, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. The wake will be from 9:30 to 11 a.m., immediately followed by a funeral liturgy at 11 a.m. Internment will be private. In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to either of the following: Virginia Unverzagt Testamentary Trust (for the benefit of Joy Unverzagt), 4036 43rd Ave S, Minneapolis, MN 55406 or The MAPT Scholarship Fund, Ministers of Providence, c/o Debbie Dillow, Owens Hall, Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, IN 47876.